Robin Williams is a physical comic. Sid Caesar was a physical comic. But few people would ever give that label to Jerry Seinfeld, who barely had to move a muscle during the nine years of one of the most successful shows in television history.
Last night at the Wang Center, though, Seinfeld was working all parts of his repertoire, and that included some pretty deft moves that at times drews howls before he could reach his punchlines. During an extended riff on weddings, for example, he lampooned those of us who dance "as if they haven't moved in five years," and proceeded to get an uproariously awkward groove on, to the delight of the crowd.
Earlier, during a few bits about the war on terrorism, he took aim at the guy arrested after a Paris-to-Miami flight was diverted to Boston last December. The man was accused of concealing a bomb in his shoe. "Don't you think anyone would have noticed this boll weevil in the airport? I imagine he was walking somewhat gingerly," he said, and demonstrated suitably, with one short stride and one very careful long one.
Seinfeld had a pretty good pace going, too. His opening bits were quick hits, such as when he complained about "that little strip along the bottom" of many newscasts. "Is that thing ever going to stop? What do you want me to do, read or listen!" He also asked about that little earpiece that newscasters wear when they're on the air: He's noticed they're adjustable, and wondered, "How far is his head going, anyway?"
The wedding riff was his longest, and he handled with aplomb a woman's plaintive call, "Jerry, we miss you," that might have thrown off the timing of a lesser wit. "But I'm here right now," he answered. "When you saw me on TV and you said `Jerry' anything, did I ever respond?" And then he was back to his wedding shtick, whose basic theme was, weddings stink, and no one wants to go to them except the bride. His best score was when he asked where women get the ego to have a train on their gown: "I dragged him down the aisle, so I'm going to drag this thing, too."
A few of his targets were repeats from his Wang appearance about 14 months ago, including coffee, SUVs, and the only three things men care about, but they were still topical, and still funny. With new stuff and old, Seinfeld succeeded on both counts.
The same could be said of Seinfeld's opener, Tom Papa, who offered a very strong and funny 15-minute warm-up in which he teased "all those dummies out there [who] get a Slurpee and they think they're on vacation. Wheee!" and poked fun at fat America, where the strenuous play that's tuckering out youngsters is Gameboy.
Papa's strong set was the evening's first proof that Seinfeld is feeling very confident in both his stuff and his style these days. You don't bring a really funny guy to open your show unless you're pretty sure you'll be even funnier.
And he was.